Chill Out with NASA’s Coolest Creation, Heat Your House, Light Your Lamps, Make Clean Water, Fuel Your Car, Water Tips from Drips to Traps, & Power? Greenpeace and the Body Shop Summit Up
August 9, 2002

SunDanzer Refrigeration's sun-fueled fridge.
Chill Out with NASA’s Coolest Creation
One of the all-time prize-winners in our personal Bad Science Hall of Fame is the traditional kitchen refrigerator and freezer. These hulking ice-boxes consume loads of coal-fired electricity, a process that sends prodigious plumes of CO2 skyward, aggravating the Greenhouse Effect, which makes things even hotter!

Wouldn’t it be great if there was a solar-powered refrigerator? Imagine: the more the sun poured down, the colder the fridge would run!

Well, thanks to a clever NASA scientist named Michael K. Ewert, such a system now exists. “What’s different and new about [the design],” Ewert explained in 2001, “is that we eliminated the need for a battery by using thermal storage.”

NASA licensed the patented design to Solus, now SunDanzer Solar Refrigeration [1320 Freeport Blvd., Suite 101, Sparks, NV 89431, (775) 331-660,]. SunDanzer Refrigeration has used the technology to create the SunDanzer™ product line of highly-efficient battery-powered freezers and fridges and a battery-free solar-powered refrigerator.

SunDanzer’s solar-powered BFR (Battery-Free Refrigerator) series can run anywhere that gets at least five sunny hours a day. The units are perfect for any solar-powered home operating “off-the-grid” and producing direct current (DC) electricity. The unit can also be powered independently by connecting it directly to a single 75 to 80W solar panel. If a spell of rainy weather hits, no problem: the system’s “internal thermal storage keeps products cold for three to seven days” depending on average room temperature.

The SunDanzer employs a variable speed compressor and peak-power tracking and runs on 12 or 24 volts DC. The 4.3-inch thick polyurethane-insulated walls are encased in a coated steel cabinet made by Electrolux of Sweden. The R-13a refrigerant is said to be chlorine-free and ozone-friendly.

These solar-powered fridges and freezers have about the same footprint as a standard home refrigerator. The 5.8-cubic-foot unit retails at $899 and the 8-cubic-foot unit retails for $999. Food is stored in convenient, stackable baskets. Because the units open from the top, there is little temperature loss when the lid is open.

Look for the SunDanzer products in forthcoming editions of the Real Goods Trading Company catalog []. SunDanzer will also be on display at Real Goods’ seventh annual SolFest set for August 24-25 at the Real Goods Solar Living Center [] in Hopland, CA, 94 miles north of San Francisco on Highway 101.

Coming to your home? PlugPower's hydrogen-brewing, home-powering fuel cell.
Heat Your House, Light Your Lamps, Make Clean Water, Fuel Your Car
With hydrogen-powered Honda FCX automobiles slated to go on sale in the US next year, the Hydrogen Revolution is set to rip. But there is one big cork keeping the hydrogen genie trapped in his lamp — the lack of a network of convenient hydrogen “filling stations.”

Big Oil is in no hurry to abandon its investment in petroleum – and its tens of thousands of fossil fuel filling stations. But Honda may have found a way around Big Oil’s stranglehold. It plans to team with the US-based Plug Power Fuel Cell Systems [] to produce hydrogen fuel in the home.

Plug Power has been perfecting residential-sized fuel cells that run on natural gas to produce electricity, heat, and pure, clean water. In addition, the fuel cells generate hydrogen, which can be stored and pumped into the family’s hydrogen-fueled car. If this hydrogen hurdle can be cleared, Honda won’t be the only one popping corks.

"When it rains, it stores." The RainCube can hold 60 gallons of rainwater. Credit:
Water Tips from Drips to Traps
A running faucet can gush 7 gallons of water a minute. One dripping faucet can waste 2,700 gallons of water a year. Thirteen percent of the average water bill comes from water lost to leaks. Here are some things you can do.

The EPA’s Energy Star labels not only flag the comparative electrical efficiency of appliances, the labels also identify the most water-saving washing machines and toilets. An Energy Star-rated washing machine can reduce a home’s water consumption by 7,000 gallons a year.

Keeping an acre of grass bright green can require 27,000 gallons of water a week. Beat global warming to the punch and replace your crabgrass with drought-hardy cover like carpet bugle, creeping juniper and wormwood.

Prepare for the rainy season (if your bioregion is still fortunate enough to have a rainy season) by installing water-harvesting systems that collect roof runoff in water cisterns. The EPA offers information on water harvesting [] and many companies manufacture rain-harvesting barrels. Check the American Rainwater Catchment Systems Association on the Web [].

Fight Global Warming: Tax Aviation Fuel
Since 1944, airline fuel has been exempt from taxation but now that jet exhaust has become the world’s largest source of greenhouse gas emissions, the European Union plans to impose a 15-euro fuel-tax on all plane ticket purchases. The fuel levy would apply to all 15 members of the EU and would go into effect within three years.

The air transport industry consumes 140 million tons of fuel a year and generates 600 million tons of CO2. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) estimates that the aviation industry’s 16,000 aircraft are currently responsible for 3.5 percent of man-made climate change. The IPCC projects that jet-smoke’s contribution to global warming could rise to 15 percent by 2050.

Crowning Achievements: The Queen’s Awards
Britain’s annual Queen’s Award for Enterprise has brought world attention and the royal imprimatur to a number of sustainable development initiatives. The 2002 winners for sustainable development included the National Cycle Network (which recorded 60 million bike trips over 6,500 miles of paths in 2000), Formpave (which invented a porous paving material that absorbs and filters storm water and then collects it for later reuse), and the US-based Interface floor-covering company (which received a queenly nod for “lifetime achievement”). []

Beware of False Solutions
Avis Europe is advertising a “carbon neutral” deal to folks who rent its cars. Avis promises to plan trees to offset the 32,510 tons of CO2 that its gas-buggies produce. Avis also has vowed to plant one tree for every car in its UK fleet — which works out to 18,000 trees a year. More importantly, Avis has agreed to reduce CO2 emissions at the source by using more fuel-efficient vehicles.

Unfortunately, planting trees to “offset” CO2 emissions turns out to be little more than environmental sleight-of-hand. The problem comes when carbon that’s been locked in the earth is extracted and pumped out into the atmosphere. Using trees to “capture” the airborne carbon is a solution that only lasts for the lifetime of the tree. As soon as the tree dies – or burns – the carbon winds up right back in the atmosphere. Planting trees to “solve” the CO2 problem is nothing more than trying to “sweep the problem under the bark.”

Future Power? Greenpeace and the Body Shop Summit Up
Greenpeace [] and the Body Shop [] will arrive at the Earth Summit in Johannesburg carrying a petition with signatures of people from 30 countries. The Positive Energy Campaign petition will call on the world’s leaders to abandon oil, coal, and nuclear fuel for clean renewable energy.

“Power To Tackle Poverty,” a joint-study published by the two organizations, argues that bringing electricity to the two billion people of the world’s people who lack access to a powerline can be best accomplished with solar, wind, geothermal and wave energy. []

Something to Cling To: A New Strand of Hope
A new “global platform for grassroots initiatives” will be inaugurated during the Sustainability Summit in Johannesburg. The Internet-based “Web of Hope” [] will provide a global clearinghouse for information on sustainable farming, renewable energy, micro-credit systems, alternative currencies and much more.

For more information contact:
See the websites and resources in the above article.

Home | Background | News | Links | Donate | Contact Us |

(510) THE-EDGE (843-3343)
E-mail us at